Wildfire smoke may cause air quality issues


The Air Quality Index (AQI) has increased in the Seattle, Bothell, and Tacoma areas, which may require public and occupational health and safety measures to be taken (summarized below). Breathing wildfire smoke may lead to adverse health effects especially for individuals with certain preexisting health conditions and those who are at higher risk.

Supervisors of personnel who work outdoors, please ensure the following:  

1. Training: Communicate wildfire smoke hazards by notifying personnel of the worsening air quality and ensure personnel complete EH&S Wildfire Smoke Safety Training

The EH&S training is for personnel who work outdoors and may reasonably be expected to be exposed to wildfire smoke for more than one hour when the air quality is at AQI of 69 or higher in the location where outdoor work is occurring. Training is required annually.

2. Respiratory protection: Provide respiratory protection to personnel upon request. UW personnel who voluntarily wear respirators must receive Advisory Information for Employees Who Voluntarily Use Respirators.

The EH&S Wildfire Smoke webpage provides additional information about the Washington State Labor and Industries (L&I) Wildfire Smoke rule.

Steps for everyone to take during periods of wildfire smoke:

  • Supervisors inform personnel of worsening air quality and guidance to limit impacts.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water.
  • Stay inside, if possible, in a room with filtered air with the doors and windows closed. Select a location with an air conditioner if it is too warm. Buildings with mechanical ventilation have air filters at air intakes that filter particles. As a supplement, portable air cleaners located in many spaces also help filter particles indoors.
  • Do not add to indoor air pollution. Do not use aerosol sprays or vacuum, which can increase air pollution indoors.
  • Do not overexert yourself to reduce how much smoke you inhale and avoid outdoor strenuous activities.

UW’s Emergency Management office coordinates the University’s response and convenes the UW’s Weather Status Assessment Group when the outdoor air quality is expected to reach unhealthy levels to monitor smoke and provide University-level communications and guidance.

Contact EH&S at airquality@uw.edu or (206) 543-7388 with questions.